Have you ever had a cup of perfectly brewed tea? If you’re treating the brewing process anything like making coffee then it’s likely you haven’t. See, tea is actually a very complex creature with hundreds of different flavor profiles and dozens of infusing possibilities. The key is in the process of brewing, which takes a bit more effort since boiling temperatures and steeping time are big factors. That’s something startup Teforia’s new infuser device wants to make easier.
“What’s the best way to present that ritualistic quality to a tea drinker in this really chaotic, busy world, but at the same time figure out how to make the best tea possible on a very scientific level?,” is the question posed by Teforia CEO and cofounder Allen Han, who left his product design work at the likes of Microsoft, HTC and Amazon to focus on helping people get the most out of their hot beverage.
“Tea is very much like wine. Different terroirs of the world will actually have different tea. And on top of that, tea adds another level complexity beyond wine because tea has four seasons in which they harvest,” says Teforia CEO and cofounder Allen Han, who first got the idea for the smart tea infusion device after having a sub-part experience at a high-end coffee shop. “Each season will actually add a different flavor to the tea.”
As for Teforia’s infuser, on the surface it doesn’t add much in the way of complexity to the ritual of making tea. In many ways, it’s still just adding water. Inside the machine is a different story, though. It employs machine-learning, a wide-open system, and precise infusion processes to ensure the perfect cup. Tea is measured using compostable pods (a far cry from the landfill-stuffing plastic nightmares that are Keurig’s K-cups) equipped with RFID tags that pull tea information and carefully-honed recipes from the Internet. Users simply place the pod on the reader on top of the machine to pull the correct recipe before adding it to an infusion globe. Teforia’s machine then brews in different courses (like phases of infusion) rather than a single imprecise infusion.
“Instead of doing one single batch of tea… we’ll divide that into multiple infusions, and that’s part of our SIPS Technology (Selective Infusion Profile System),” Han explains. “We do that because tea is actually very complicated, and there’s actually 200+ different chemical compounds in there. Each set of chemicals we call a ‘profile’, and these could impart a flavor.
“For example, a fruitiness in a black tea, a vegetable flavor and savory flavor in a green tea…each course will change the parameters of the water, timing, how much aeration we do to optimize the infusion conditions for each profile.”
Teforia’s infusers run on an open system that allows you to use your own loose leaf tea in conjunction with Teforia’s app to brew and customize tea recipes. By telling the app about the color, size, and shape the tea leaves that you’re brewing, you can customize recipes to extract less caffeine (up to 62 percent less, in fact) or more antioxidants. You’ll also have access to a flavor wheel that’ll let you customize the taste of the tea based on four basic notes: floral, savory, fruity and earthy. Using the SIPS tech, the machine will adjust the courses to bring out different aspects of certain teas.
“Prior to Teforia, it was very difficult for anyone to actually taste the seasonality in tea, but now we’re able to fine-tune to the level that you’ll be able to taste a summer tea — that’s going to be a little bit more spicy, a little bit more fruity, more sweet — versus a winter tea that’s going to be more floral, more crispy and more light in finish,” Han tells me.
Teforia’s app also tracks all previous teas and tea recipes you’ve tried, allows you to share/discover those recipes with others, and provides a way to connect the Infuser to work in conjunction with your other smart home gadgets.
It’s easy to see Han’s experience in product design and user experience in the Teforia machine: The product itself is gorgeous. It’s sleek and uncomplicated, with only two components that require washing (the globe and carafe) and backlit buttons that are only visible when the machine is in use. It’s small, too, with a footprint about the size of your average coffee maker or stand-up mixer. Teforia’s infusers available for preorder now and will ship in Spring 2016. The infuser will retail for $1,299 (although the first 500 devices are available for $649). That’s a steep price but perhaps worth it for those who are serious about getting the most out of, say, a $45/oz Oolong.